Maximizing Customer Value and Engagement

Businesses exist to serve their customers. Self-perpetuation, environmental sustenance, social issues, and even shareholder value maximization are of little importance if the customer is not served. How can companies, and other organizations, give their customers their best?

By Mark D. Harris

The rug dealer at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul carefully poured the Turkish apple chi into a small cup. “Here, my friend,” he said as he handed the cup to me. He sat down close by and asked, “How is your family?” Thus began ten minutes of chit chat before we even mentioned the silk rug that I had admired when I came in. The small talk would have gone on longer, but my American impatience cut it short. By the time we were done, the rug dealer had $500 of my hard-earned dollars, and I walked out with a beautiful rug that probably cost less than half that to make. The dealer may have congratulated himself for fleecing another rich American. I congratulated myself on buying a rug that my wife would like, having a fascinating experience, and helping support a Turkish businessman and the economy of a third world nation. A fair deal, I figure.

Buying and selling across the world

Americans walk into a store, find what they want, check to see if the price is reasonable to them, and if it is, they buy the item. Rarely is there any dickering between buyer and seller over price. My experience in northern and western Europe has been the same.

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Notes on Negotiation

Tips on getting what you want, and getting what everyone wants, in negotiations.

By Mark D. Harris

When Eisenhower became President, Truman was rumored to have said, “Ike can’t just tell people what to do like he could in the Army. When you are president, you only get what you can negotiate.” Whether this story actually happened is irrelevant. In life, you only get what you negotiate.


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Communication Conflicts

Assumptions, Emotions, Perceptions, Conditions, and Facts color our communication with ourselves and others. We must learn to manage them.

By Mark D. Harris

A wise man once said that the hardest thing about communication is the illusion that it has occurred. I have been involved in hundreds of medical, military, and public safety operations, and the after-action reviews of each one cite communication as a problem. Whether in business, relationships, or anywhere else, avalanches of academic papers and mountains of media articles bemoan our inability to effectively talk to each other, and propose ways of fixing it.

Several factors are present in every communication event, including assumptions, emotions, perceptions, conditions, and facts. They change the communication, often without the participants realizing it.

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Why Talk?

We talk to other people to share information, to make impressions, to intimidate, to seduce, and for more reasons than we realize.

By Mark D. Harris

Last month I attended triservice Disaster Management classes in San Antonio, TX. We did many team simulations and during a break I chatted with a teammate, Sarah, a Navy environmental health officer. She had only been in uniform a few months, previously working as an environmental lobbyist in Washington DC. A single female in her mid-30s, she was a self-described liberal, and after class she was going to Austin, which she described as a “little blue dot in a sea of red”.

Pundits might classify Sarah and I on different ends of the political spectrum, and I was curious about her views. We chatted a few moments about economic inequality, and at the next break I asked her to continue with her thoughts. She hesitated. Sarah said “these conversations start from different points” and they end “without either person having convinced the other”. I responded, “yes”, but to convince the other person is not the main point of a conversation; the main point of such discourse is to build relationships. She seemed a little surprised, but began sharing, and we had a fine discussion.

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